Do you worry about ageing? When did that begin – when you were younger or more recently?
People from every age group worry about ageing – and these worries don’t seem to be all the different between the generations.
A new survey unveiled at the American Society on Ageing conference has revealed that young and old Americans have very similar worries about ageing.
The survey involved 3,026 adults aged over 30 and older to see how those aged in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70+ perceive ageing.
The research was lead Dr. Zia Agha, chief medical officer and executive vice president of clinical research at the West Health Institute.
What is Old Age?
In the survey, the respondents were quizzed on what they defined as “old age”. And what researchers found was that it was mostly connected to loss of independence.
79 per cent of people said that old age was when they could no longer live on their own, while 64 per cent said that it was when they could no longer drive.
When it came to putting a number to it – 87 per cent said a person has reached old age at 85 and 74 per cent said it’s age 75.
Ageing Through The Ages
Though seniors are generally considered to be 60 or over, the researchers wanted to include people in their 30s and 40s because “they’re involved in the aging experience through family members and as caregivers and because they’ll be the seniors of the future”.
The results found that people in their 30s were significantly worried about ageing – for themselves and as an overall population.
“Worries about ageing loom large for the over 30s for the country and for themselves. About 70 per cent think the country is ‘a little or not at all prepared’ to address the needs of the fast-growing senior population,” said Dr Agha.
One of the key “ageing” concerns across the generations was that fear of losing independence. 71 per cent of the total group said they worried about things such as losing their memory, ill health or even not having financial security.
Particularly for the younger aged groups, that is people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, the leading concern was financial security. While for people in their 60s and 70s, the leading worry was losing their memory.
“Patients have been educated on how to prevent diabetes. They don’t know what to do to protect themselves from dementia. There isn’t much we can tell them,” said Dr Agha.
Despite these fears, most people surveyed were quite optimistic about ageing.
More than half the respondents said that they were “mostly or somewhat” optimistic – and surprisingly that percentage increased with age.
Of the 30s age group, 46 per cent said that they were optimistic. However, 66 per cent respondents who were 70 and over said that they were optimistic about ageing.
Dr Agha explained that this “is a reflection of the resilience of seniors as they age.”
Improving the Aging Experience
On ways to improve the ageing experience, and models of care, there were a number of suggestions presented at the American Society on Ageing conference.
One included an increase of “inter-generational models”. Programs such as those where adults over 50 tutor school children. Such initiatives are beneficial to both students and the adults.
Research has found that the instructors’ health status “improved dramatically” and the tutors “made social connections with others at the school.”
59 per cent of the surveyed group believed that no enough is being done to address the health care and social support needs of older people.
Dr Agha’s understanding of the situation is that “it’s very clear that today’s health care is not addressing all the needs. We need more patient-centered and senior-centered models of care.”